Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Dotonbori is "Must-See" place in Osaka.  	©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Dotonbori is “Must-See” place in Osaka. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

I wrote about train system in Kyoto before. But I have received many inquiries about Osaka too. I think it is very complicated for travellers from overseas. There are three types of railway, JR, Osaka Municipal Subway and Private company’s railways. Once you understand train system, you can find the best location to stay, the best deal for trains ride and the fastest way to visit that you want to see.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

As probably you know, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Osaka Subway Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass. Each pass has different conditions. You must understand the coverage of your pass.

In this post, I tell you about using these deals and explain all train systems in Osaka.

Which train services that are covered by ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, subway deals and other JR deals

Many deals are available in Kansai area. But each pass have different coverage. I tell you about major passes and deals.

For the travellers who use ICOCA

You can take all trains on the map above except Shinkansen. When you travel in Kansai area, don’t try to take Shinkansen for such a short transfer, like going to Kyoto or Kobe. Please see the post, How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Compare Japan Railway and private lines.

ICOCA does not cover Osaka city bus service too. But I don’t think you have many chances to take city bus in Osaka. You can go anywhere by train services. Train is much faster than bus.

For the travellers who use Kansai Thru Pass and Rainbow Card

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

Kansai Thru Pass is unlimited ride pass and Rainbow Card is pre-paid card for most of NON JR trains in Osaka.

The only place where you can’t go by these deals is USJ. But if you don’t care about riding city bus, you can catch the bus at Nishikujo station. Nishikujo can be accessed by Hanshin Railway that is covered by Kansai Thru Pass. Even if you pay for JR train, the fare is 160 yen foe one way. It is not a big deal. I will explain about access to Universal Studion Japan later.

JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Kansai Hokuriku Aea Pass, Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

When you go to Kaiyukan and Tenpozan waterfront area, you can’t use these JR train’s pass because there is no JR line there. If you take subway train, the fare from Bentencho to Osakako is 230 yen for one way.

Next, in case that you go to Namba, it’s not very convenient. JR has a station in Namba, JR Namba station. But this station is not located in the center of Namba. Nankai Railway’s Namba station, Subway Midousuji line Namba station and Osaka-Namba station (Hanshin and Kintetsu) are very closed each other. But JR Namba station is 1km away from Nankai Railway’s Namba station. If you walk, it takes at least 15 minutes. And also when you go to Namba from Umeda area, You have to take Osaka Kanjo line from Osaka to Imamiya and need to transfer to the train to JR Namba. It’s a big detour and much longer trip than Osaka subway Midousuji line. I cannot find any reason to avoid paying only 230 yen fare to take subway from Umeda to Namba.

Osaka subway Enjoy Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

Enjoy Eco Card covers Osaka subway and city bus. Osaka Unlimited Pass includes unlimited ride of subway and bus, and free admission for major attractions in Osaka. There are one day and two day available. But coverage is a bit different. One day covers subway, bus and major private railways, like Hanshin, Nankai, Keihan and Kintetsu. It is very similar to Kansai Thru Pass. But two day pass covers subway and bus only. When you choose this deal, please make sure your itinerary and which train you need to get on.

As long as you can take subway, most of places can be reached by subway.

How to access to major spots in Osaka by train

Most of places in Osaka can be accessed by train. I would like to share the information of access to major spots with you.

Namba, Dotonbori, Houzenji and Shinsaibashi area

There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori area. ©JNTO
There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori area. ©JNTO

You can reach Namba by many ways.

  • Namba station (Nankai Railways) to/from Kansai Airport (KIX), Mt. Koya (Koyasan) and Wakayama
  • Namba station (Osaka Subway Midousuji line, Yotsubashi line and Sennichimae line) to/from Umeda, Nishi-Umeda, Tennoji
  • Osaka-Namba station (Hanshin Railways) to/from Sannomiya, Kobe and Himeji
  • Osaka-Namba station (Kintetsu Railways) to/from Nara, Ise and Nagoya
  • JR Namba station (JR) to/from Tennoji, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kansai Airport (KIX

As I mentioned above, JR Namba station is not located in the core of Namba. JR Namba is closed to Subway Yotsubashi line Namba station and Sennichimae line’s Sakuragawa station is actually closer than Namba station.


View Namba in a larger map

Nankai Railways is the best way to get Namba from Kansai Airport. And also train runs to Mt. Koya.

Hanshin Railways and Kintetsu Railways trains go through each other. And their station is “Osaka-Namba” station. When you search on Hyperdia, you can find Osaka-Namba. It’s not Namba for these train companies but Osaka-Namba. If you stay in Namba and want to go to Nara or Kobe, you can use these train companies. You can go there directly from Namba.

If you go to Nara, you can catch Kintetsu Railway’s train at Osaka-Namba station. Please see the post, How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient. to learn more about access to Nara.

Shinsaibashi is one station away from Namba by subway. But Namba and Shinsaibashi are connected by shopping arcade. Dotonbori is located between Namba and Shinsaibashi. And also Shinsaibashi is connected with Yotsubashi and Nihonbashi by underground. So most of places in Namba can be accessed by walk.

Umeda

Umeda Sky Building is one of popular spots in Umeda area. ©JNTO
Umeda Sky Building is one of popular spots in Umeda area. ©JNTO

Umeda and Namba are two biggest downtown core in Osaka. There are many department stores and shopping complex in Umeda area. In Umeda area, only JR station is called “Osaka”. JR Osaka station and other railway’s Umeda station are located in same area.

There are many stations in Umeda.

  • Osaka station (JR Kobe line, Kyoto line, Osaka Kanjo line) to/from Kansai Airport (KIX), Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, USJ, Tennoji
  • Umeda station (Osaka Subway Midousuji line) to/from Namba, Shin-Osaka, Tennoji
  • Umeda station (Hanshin Railways) to/from Sannomiya, Kobe and Himeji
  • Umeda station (Hankyu Railways) to/from Kawaramachi, Arashiyama, Shijo, Sannomiya, Takarazuka
  • Higashi-Umeda station (Osaka Subway Tanimachi line) to/from Uehonmachi/Tanimachi Kyuchome, Tennoji
  • Nishi-Umeda station (Osaka Subway Yotsubashi line) to/from Namba
  • Kitashinchi station (JR Tozai line) to/from Namba

Please see the post, Osaka station guide. How to change JR trains, subway trains and other private railways – See more at: http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-station-guide-how-to-change-jr-trains-subway-trains-and-other-private-railways.html to get more detail about Osaka and Umeda station area.

Tenpozan, Kaiyukan

Kaiyukan is located in this Tenpozan waterfront area. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Kaiyukan is located in this Tenpozan waterfront area. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Osaka Subway Chuo line’s Osakako station is the nearest station. You can catch Chuo line’s train at Honmachi, Bentencho and many other places. If you stay in Umeda or Namba, simple take Midousuji line or Yotsubashi line train and transfer to Chuo line’s train at Honmachi. If you are JR Pass user, you can get Bentencho by Osaka Kanjo line from Osaka or Tennoji. You have to pay extra on top of your pass for taking subway from Bentencho.

USJ is located just across the river. But there is no direct train or bus. Please see next chapter to get USJ from Tenpozan.

Universal Studion Japan (USJ)

Universal Studios Japan 2010.12.18_001Universal Studios Japan 2010.12.18_001 / TAKA@P.P.R.S

JR Yumesaki line’s Universal City station is the nearest station. There is no subway or private railway’s service available. If you are not JR train user, you can catch the pass to USJ at Nishikujo station.

If you want to access to Tenpozan/Kaiyukan from USJ, shuttle cruise service is the fastest and only direct way to connect both places.

Shuttle Cruise Capt. Line

Otherwise you have to take Universal City station – Nishikujo station – Bentencho station – Osakako station route. It is a big detour.

Osakajo (Osaka castle)

Osaka castle is one of popular spot to see cherry blossom in Osaka. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Osaka castle is one of popular spot to see cherry blossom in Osaka. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

There are several stations around Osaka castle. You can access there from Tenmabashi station (Keihan Railway), Tanimachi-Yonchome station (Subway Tanimachi line), Osakajo-Koen station (JR), Osaka Business Park station (Subway Nagahori-Tsurumi Ryokuchi line), and Morinomiya station (JR). The nearest stations to access to the castle are Tenmabashi and Tanimachi-Yonchome. Other stations are okay, but these stations are closed to Osaka Castle Park.

Shinsekai, Tennoji zoo

You can feel real tradition of Osaka in Shinsekai.   	©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
You can feel real tradition of Osaka in Shinsekai. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Shinsekai is old town of Osaka. There is very traditional shopping arcade. Tsutenkaku tower is located in Shinsekai area. This area can be accessed from JR and Nankai Railway’s Shin-Imamiya station.

Tennoji Zoo is located between Tennoji station and Dobutsuenmae station. (Dobutsuenma means “in front of zoo”.)

517 thoughts on “Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?”

  1. Hi! Thank you for all these helpful information. Although after reading a few posts i still can’t decide on which pass best suit our trip.

    It would be great if you could help us.

    Day 1:
    arrival at KIX (8pm)
    Will be staying at Osaka shi

    Day 2:
    USJ
    umeda sky building

    Day 3:
    Osaka castle
    Nara
    Kobe

    Day 4:
    Kyoto
    (Planning on taking night bus to Tokyo, will be staying there for another 4days then exit Japan)

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Janelle,

      Please see the link below to find the info about the deal for day 1.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Single ticket is okay for day 2 and you may use Kansai thru pass for day 3 and 4.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,
    If I have takayama hokuriku area pass, I can use this to arrive shin immamiya station from KIX. But if I need to go around shinsaibashi area, dotonbori, what pass do you suggest I buy? It’s a one day trip only in Osaka. Next day I’m going to Kyoto with hokuriku pass already.
    I read about visitor ticket 550 yen (to be purchase at airport). Can we buy few of this tickets in advance or only one passport for one ticket? As I have remaining days in Osaka after returning from shirakawago.

  3. hi,

    I arrived at airport at 1040pm. Will i be able to clear immigration and purchase a train ticket to Namba? Where can i purchase?

    Thanks,

  4. Hi Takeshi San,

    my family of 4 (2 children 9 and 3 years old respectively) will be staying in Osaka for 5 days. Which is the most economical way to travel to Namba from the Airport? If we are just hanging around Osaka and visit the usual places of interest and dont intend to travel out of Osaka, could you kindly recommend the type of transportation cards that we should purchase? We will probably visit 2 places at most per day.

    Thanks!

  5. Hi. My trip to Japan is will be on next week but I am still confused about the train system. I would like to know the best pass or route to reach these destination. Thank you in advance.

    – Umeda sky building,
    – Kaiyukan
    – Osaka Castle
    – Dotonbori
    – Umeda Kuchu Teien Observatory,
    – Universal Studios

  6. Hi Takeshi San,

    I am planning a trip to Osaka, just would like your advise on rail pass. My trip is

    KIX to Amanohashidate (1 day) then
    To Kyoto (2days) then
    To Osaka ( 3 days) then
    To KIX

    I am planning to buy a JR Kansai wide pass for first 5 days then buy an ICOCA for any extra. Do you think is a good idea?

    Thanks for your time.

    Kind regards,

    Karina

  7. dear Takeshi san,

    May I seek your kind help to review my itinery and advise any other pass to purchase? Or any other suggestions I would be grateful, thank you!

    Nov 25: Reach kix — travel by limo bus to airbnb
    Nov 26: Osaka dotonburi namba/ cup noodle museum
    Nov 27: Kobe & arima onsen
    Nov 28: USJ
    Nov 29: Nara Day trip
    Nov 30: Koyasan temple stay ( World Heritage Ticket)
    1-2 dec : Checkout koyasan to kanazawa ( activate takayama Hokuriku pass from 1-5 dec)
    3 -4 dec : Takayama & Shirakawago & Gero onsen
    5 dec: kiyomizudera temple & Kurama onsen side trip
    6 dec: Arashiyama day trip
    7 dec: Kyoto main station shopping
    8 dec: Osaka stay
    9 dec depart via KIX

    1. Hi Gladys san,

      You can use Kansai thru pass for Kobe, Arima, Nara and Koyasan. World Heritage ticket is not required.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      You may use Kansai one pass for Nov 26, 28 and may be some part of the trips in Kyoto. It has 2500 e-money and it covers at least 3 days of your trip.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      You can add more fund into Kansai one pass. Otherwise in Kyoto and Osaka, you may add other passes.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I would like to know if I purchase ECO 1 Day Card – does this pass covers Hankyu Takarazuka Line Exp to UMEDA?

    Im planning to purchase this Card for my family – so we could also use this to travel between our Hotel to Namba.

    Regards
    Foli

  9. Hi Takeshi

    I just booked a 9 days’ trip to Osaka from Singapore from 22 Dec to 31 Jan 2016. I will be staying at Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport. Can I walk to the hotel or I need to get a bus there?

    How do I travel from my hotel to Osaka downtown for shopping, Nara, Kyoto, and Universal Studio? What train tickets and lines should I take to get to each place? I find it very confusing reading about so many different type of lines, and trains to take.

    Is there any skiing place around Osaka, or nearby to spend a day or two? any hot spring place?

    This is my first time in Japan, and in Osaka, and I am very excited. I just want to enjoy myself with my husband, and we both are in our 50s and don’t understand a word of Japanese.

    Thank you so much.

    Kindly assist me to let me know what sort of map I shud bring along for the trains and subways.

    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Fran,

      You can access to your hotel by walk from the airport.

      Kansai thru pass is more recommended because this pass covers all non JR trains among KIX, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. It also covers subway and bus in the cities.

      On the other hand, Kansai area pass covers only JR trains. It does not cover bus and subway. However JR trains is faster to get Kyoto. Please see the link below to find info about Kansai thru pass and Kansai area pass.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html

      You may use these two passes. But you have to make the itinerary first before choosing the deals. Japan Guide may help you to make your plan.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1105.html

      Arima Onsen is most accessible hot spring in Kansai region.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3558.html

      Biwako Valley open for ski in winter season.
      http://www.biwako-valley.com/topics/22706

      I recommend you to make the plan first. Just try to find how you spend for each cities. Basically you need at least one each day for each cities. If you go to USJ, you need one full day for just USJ. You may spend two days in Kyoto but it depends on how much you line temple and shrine.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Hello Sir Takeshi!

    Your website is a lifesaver! I really need your help, I will be arriving on November 15, 2016, and on the next day (Nov 16) I will be going to Universal Studios. I will be coming from Stargate Hotel in Kansai, I understand this is beside Rinku-Town station.. My concerns are:

    1.) What ticket can I purchase, if possible, a pass, so that I need not buy another ticket going back, to avoid buying the wrong one in confusion? And what route do you suggest I take from Rinku Town to USJ? Also what time does the train station open?

    2.) Are the train stations still open when I leave USJ at around 7 or 8pm?

    3.) I’m planning to go to Namba station after USJ, what route do you suggest I take (USJ to Namba)? (I plan to hop off at Namba and then walk around to Dotonburi for dinner, etc., until midnight) 🙂

    4.) My biggest concern: can I still catch a train from Namba to Rinku Town Station at night? What time is the last train? (Namba to Rinku Town) I am worried that I might not be able to go home, as I have a flight going home the next day

    I am a little confused between Namba Station and Namba Nankai, I hope I don’t get it wrong. If all else fails, (just in case) is it easy to ride a taxi from USJ or Namba to Rinku Town at 12 midnight?

    Is there a table that I can view regarding time schedules for the train?

    Thank you! Thank you very much! I apologize for the lengthy post and many questions. I am just too excited to travel to Japan for the first time 🙂 Hoping for your response. Have a nice day!

    1. Hi Mae,

      The easiest route is JR trains from Rinku town to Nishikujo and change the trains to Universal city (USJ). Please see the link below to find the map.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/how-to-get-kansai-airport-and-wakayama-kansai-airport-rapid-service-and-kishuji-rapid-service.html

      There is no direct ways to get Namba from Universal city. You need to take JR train to Nishikujo and change Hanshin railway to get Osaka-Namba.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/namba-stations-guide-how-to-change-the-trains-among-nankai-kintetsu-hanshin-subway-and-jr.html

      After that, you need to take Nankai railway from Namba to Rinkutown.

      I recommend you to use Kansai one pass.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      It does not give you unlimited travel but it covers all trains which you take. 2500 yen is way enough to cover this trip. You can add more fund if you want to take train for other trips.

      In Osaka area, train runs from 5:00 am to midnight. In day time, it runs every 5 to 10 minutes. There is no hard copy of timetable because it’s huge number of trains running. Please try to use Hyperdia to find the schedule.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you very much for the quick response Sir Takeshi! I really appreciate it!! I am a part of an airline crew, thus no visa stamp, just a crew pass, do you think I am still eligible for the Kansai One Pass? We are only in Japan for 2 days

        2.) As I can see on the Kansai One Pass, the only accessible place I can purchase it is in Kansai Airport. So do I need to go there before I proceed to USJ to get the pass or can I get one in Rinku Station? And can I reload it in any station? Thank you very much! We will be arriving late at night, i hope they are still selling it in the stations, do you know what time they open in the morning so i can buy? Thanks again, you are such a big help 🙂

        1. Hi Mae,

          Actually I have no idea about crew pass. So I’m not sure you can purchase Kansai One Pass or not. You may try and if you cannot, just purchase ICOCA. ICOCA is available for anybody.

          Kansai One Pass is sold at KIX only. You must purchase it at KIX station. Please see the link below to find it.
          http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/kansai-airport-transportation-guide-find-info-about-station-ticket-airport-bus-and-high-speed-ferry.html

          If you purchase ICOCA, you can purchase it at any JR stations, such as Rinkutown.

          You may add more fund into ICOCA or Kansai One Pass at any JR stations.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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